What is Broken is Not Lost

by Gregoire Phillips

 

This has already not been an easy year. With the inauguration of a man capable of reversing many of the resounding social, political, and economic victories of my generation and beyond, I have struggled to come to terms with who we are as a nation - and who I am as a citizen in her light. Can the same nation built on the backs of oppressed peoples really so easily turn around and do the same unto others? Are we so easily scared of the unknown that we find ourselves willing to endanger the lives of the very heirs of our misfortune? 

 

We are broken. At our most vulnerable, we have contorted ourselves beyond recognition to appease the fears of the most discontented among us. But what is broken is not lost. And this is a lesson with which I am intimately familiar.

 

I, too, have been broken. Born to a split family, I learned early on to compartmentalize my emotions. Emotion was firepower, and love a battlefield of passion and loss. So I buried my feelings, lest I too be swallowed by the inferno sustained by those I loved. I could not be myself. So I became what others wanted me to be instead. I broke myself so that I would fit into their boxes, and I hid from the flames for as long as I could. 

 

But life has a funny way of making us face even our deepest conflicts, and what I could handle emotionally, I was no match for physically. In college, I began to lose weight - slowly, at first, but then rapidly beyond recognition. My skin began to turn white, then yellow. My hair became thin and frail. My nails began to crack. My doctors could not find the source of the problem, and my body was shutting down. I was broken. This time, I could not hide from my problems. 

 

It was here - at my most vulnerable - that I forced myself to face what I had become. My soul had broken long before my body, spreading itself between the boxes of others to escape the fiery battlefield of my childhood. I did not know who I was. And I did not want to leave this life without knowing who I was. 

 

So I put myself back together. Piece by piece, I recovered parts of myself that I had shunned from the very beginning of my self-awareness. Yes, I am queer. And that's okay. Yes, I do want kids someday. And that's okay, too. No, I cannot do it all. And that is just fine. No, I do not have all the answers. And I shouldn't have to. Slowly, I redefined myself in my own image, rather than those of the people around me. I became me. 

 

And then it happened. The doctors found my ailment - Crohn's disease, a difficult-to-diagnose immune-deficient disorder that impaired my body's ability to absorb vital nutrients - and started treatment. It was an uphill battle, but I slowly started to gain weight and recover my strength. What was broken was now healing, and it had started with my soul. 

 

Our nation is broken. We do not know who we are. We have compartmentalized our fears - spread ourselves across the boxes of those most afraid of what the future might bring. But if I've learned anything from my own experiences, it is that what is broken is not lost. Rather, brokenness affords us an opportunity to stand as a nation and redefine ourselves in our own image. 

 

We've broken together. Now let's show the world who we are. 

 

 

 

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